What I learnt in my first 6 months travelling SE Asia as a digital nomad
Updated: May 23, 2019
Lesson 1: You need to be REALLY disciplined to avoid (or postpone) procrastination
Are you a digital nomad? Are you your own boss? In this case I guess you will understand why I am starting this post mentioning my dearest new friend, Mr. (or Miss?) Procrastination.
I have actually been meaning to write a new blog post for 2 months now. I have also written down so many plans, ideas and prospective projects in the past 3-4 months and have attended several workshops, speeches and other events on how to be more productive and successful. At one of them a very charismatic speaker stated: "Ideas suck, execution makes money". I even wrote that down on a post-it and have carried it around with me, putting it on the wall at any place I spent more than a week. The result? Feeling really unsuccessful and unproductive. Plus frustration and guilt. And I keep having great ideas (at least according to me), writing down plans and putting deadlines which I consistently keep not meeting. Most effective loop ever. So my next plan is to learn some discipline. Over the next month. Yes. I even have a deadline for it.
Lesson 2: Travelling all the time is not all fun and games and unicorns jumping around
Travelling all the time means no real social life, no real friendships, no real routine and no real productivity. You constantly feel like going on missions to explore your new surroundings, going to events to meet new people to do some exciting stuff with and going to all those nice cafés and restaurants to try all that wonderful local food. And the rest of the time you feel like being alone because all those new experiences simply drain you. You have no time left to be productive. No time left to have a nice routine that you crave for so much. You keep telling yourself you'll work on that once you spend more than 2-3 weeks at the same place. Which you never do, as all those new adventures keep calling you. Most effective loop ever.
How about social life and friendships? You might start having some social life and meet some nice people that you start building friendships with. But then you want to move on. Or they want to move on. Or everyone wants to move on. Life is full of opportunities, there are too many places to explore and too many cool people to hang out with and we all have a bad case of FOMO.
Travelling all the time also means no real comfort. As long as you are not a hugely successful businessman/woman, you'll need to stick to choosing from inexpensive accomodation options. Which might mean ants, cockroaches, mosquitoes, any other possible insects or animals in and around your bed, noise, water, sand, dirt, any other possible inconvenience in these lovely and not so developed countries in Southeast Asia. No offense, just stating the facts. For a few weeks it can even seem fun and full of adventure. After a few months you gradually start losing your sense of adventure though. At the same time your longing for comfort, cleanliness and a bit more space than 15 square metres start increasing. So you go and housesit in some nice flat and enjoy the comforts of it (like having a toaster, a blender and a whooooole living rooooom to yourself) so much you skip having social life for a while. After all you have some pets around to cuddle with. Who needs people if you can fill up your necessary daily physical touch quota with your new fluffy friends?
Then again when and how can you balance social life, friendships, routine, productivity, comfort, travelling, exploring, moneymaking and success? Not to mention love life. Sometimes you might manage for a few days, but then it's all lost again. Maybe my next plan should be learning to juggle. Should I put a deadline for it? Would that make sense?
Lesson 3: Building up a successful online business is NOT that easy
Yeah, is this even necessary to mention? Ha. I could just finish this part right here. Right?
So my story goes like this: I was naive enough to think that if I had previously been able to successfully build up a private teaching "practice" in only a few weeks (yes, I had managed to do that 3 times in 2 countries) when I had done it locally in different cities that would mean I could obviously do the same again being location independent. I would simply do the same, put up a few ads here and there and wait for all those people who are hungry for knowledge to contact me. I already knew how to write a successful ad that could capture people's attention so they would just miraculously appear and want my services. How hard could it be?
Well, it took me a few months (plus countless advertising campaign trials and failures, several online marketing courses and endless stress, frustration and hairloss) to realise it IS harder than that. Not advertising my services locally (for a well-defined local market) but just out there in that huge online space means there are not only a lot more prospective customers (students) but also thousands of experienced competitors. Plus most people still prefer to find a private teacher locally and study with the good old face-to-face method. At least in most Western European countries. Which I am/was trying to target.
Plus online marketing is not as simple as those blogs and popular instagram profiles out there want you to think it is. Just like when I started out and tried to make a website from scratch. Web design is a different profession. So is online marketing. You could of course do your own marketing if you are willing to spend all those hours and all that energy on it, sure. And if you don't develop an allergy to it after a while. Not my case. For now I have stopped to think about it.
Next move? Hiring an online marketing specialist, retargeting, remarketing, redefining... or moving to a buddhist temple in the mountains, becoming a nun and never looking back...?
Oh well. I might just keep going, trying harder and believing "Yes, I can" and eventually it will all work out. How about that? That's what all the influencers I follow keep pouring on me on a daily basis when I open the social media tap. Must be for a reason, right?
Lesson 4: Even if it's hard, this is the life I chose, so I might as well enjoy it
I actually DO love it all and feel so blessed and grateful. Hell yeah! This lifestyle is full of new inputs, experiences, challenges, adventures, connections, failures, fresh starts and valuable lessons... if I didn't want them I could just stay at home and do what I was doing previously and stick to the well-known.
Lesson 5: Sometimes it is useful to go back to the roots and stick to the well-known for a while
So I am just going to do that for a few weeks. I am flying home tomorrooooowwww (so excited!) and will recharge my batteries, relax, enjoy quality time with friends and family, visit some well-known favourite places, indulge in yummi food, have a great time at various events; trainings, conferences, concerts and festivals...
And after all this I'll hopefully come back with renewed energies and fresh ideas. I am basically going to start anew. I already have several ideas what to do differently next time I am back in Asia. I'm basically going to have a base and a routine and a regular social life. Also going to pay attention to being close and spending more time with the people that have (or will) become important to me. And last but not least: going to be more productive!
Hell yes! (Wish me luck, thanks!)